Growing Pains

Summary: Sometimes growing up is harder on parents than it is on children. Zaraki Kenpachi is about to find this out the hard way.

"Hey Ken-chan."

"What is it Brat?"

Most evenings seemed to go like this. Kenpachi would sign the papers that Ikkaku and Yumichika could not because of their rank, and Yachiru would sit waiting for him to finish.

When they had first started this routine, Yachiru would eat a snack and impatiently tug at the violent man's sleeve. Years later, she went through an 'art phase' where she would sit and colour pictures (usually with lots of red since she usually drew herself and Ken-chan beating up Hollows) while eating and asking if he was done every few minutes. A few decades later she would bring her school books so she could do work, just like Ken-chan. But as school work suddenly became tedious, Kenpachi noticed her bringing a different sort of reading material.

He blamed Yumichika.

The stupid feather head had to have been the one to give her the magazine, but she read them whenever they were at the office. For some reason it irritated him. The curious thing was, if he saw another woman, or his fifth seat, reading the rags they passed off as vital information, he would never have cared. But now that Yachiru was reading them, it depressed him for some reason.

She had also started to talk about different things. At first, all she would ask for was Kenpachi to tell her some made up fairy tale, or tell her how to get stronger. Now for some reason she wanted to know his opinion on clothes and ask for permission to go out with other girls. This was alright at first but now things were about to take a new twist.

"The autumn festival is coming up," said the pink haired tween.

"And?" asked Kenpachi, genuinely confused as to how this was an important issue.

"And," said Yachiru hesitantly, "I'm the only one without a date."

Date? Had HIS daughter just say the word date? As in with a boy? No, they had been through this before, and he, Zaraki Kenpachi was always her date.

"Aren't I going with you?" asked Kenpachi.

Yachiru shifted a little uncomfortably though, she did not know why. This wasn't that important, was it? "Well, the truth is Ken-chan, I thought it might be fun to try going with someone else."

They had gone through this before too when Kenpachi was unable to go, or the hyper girl wanted to do something spontaneous, "Is it cue ball, or the feather head?"

"Actually…I was thinking of Hanatarou, or Rikichi, or maybe Rin," chirped Yachiru.

And that was the moment Kenpachi died.

"Who?" he demanded, to make sure he heard right.

"I know they all used to be a little dorky, but, Rikichi's a seated officer now, and he's really tough. And Rin and I have met a couple times at the sweet shop and he seems nice. And Hanatarou is so sensitive, and totally cute now that he's grown his hair," elaborated Yachiru.

That hadn't happened. HIS daughter had NOT just said 'totally cute.' HIS daughter was NOT reading a preteen magazine. HIS daughter was not talking about dating teenage boys.

"Just a minute Brat, I need to stop by the fourth," growled Kenpachi.

"Going to play 'Maim the Medics?" asked Yachiru.

"No…I feel sick…"

"Well, we've done blood tests, CT scans, MRI, EKGs…you're completely healthy Zaraki-Taicho," announced Unohana.

"Then why the hell was I feeling sick," snapped Kenpachi, "Speak up woman!"

Unohana sighed. "Let's try this again, what was the last thing you ate?"

"Yakisoba."

"Last time your bowels moved."

"This afternoon."

"Are you taking any medications?"

"None."

"Do you have any allergies?"

"Just diagnose me already woman!"

"Zaraki-Taicho, this is a necessary routine. It might provide a vital clue," insisted Unohana.

Kenpachi growled and threw himself back onto the hospital bed. He hated coming here, everything was so slow. Why couldn't he just fight whatever disease this was with a sword. Stupid, weak, kidou using medics!

"What were you doing when this attack came on?" asked Unohana.

"Paperwork," grumbled Kenpachi.

"Were you alone?" pressed Unohana.

"Nah, the brat was with me," said Kenpachi.

"And, has Yachiru been well?" asked Unohana.

Kenpachi was silent for a while, "She's in one piece…I think."

"You think?" gasped Unohana.

"Yeah, I mean she's not cut or bleeding, but she keeps going on about dates and boys and clothes. Maybe you should check her out," suggested Kenpachi.

Unohana put a hand to her mouth and stifled a giggle. It was not enough. Soon the whole fourth division was ringing with the sounds of the Captain's laughter. Kenpachi stared at her menacingly as the woman continued to have the nerve to laugh at him. He had cut down women for lesser insults.

"Get a grip woman!" Kenpachi roared.

"I'm sorry…I'm sorry," weezed Unohana between giggles, "But I think I know what's wrong with Yachiru."

"Then stop laughing and fix her!" demanded Kenpachi.

"She can't be fixed," said Unohana, "Zaraki-Taicho, Yachiru-chan is growing up."

There was a silence as Kenpachi processed this. He had grown up, but he had never felt the urge to do any of the things Yachiru did. It had to be Yumichika's fault. Whatever the fifth seat had must have been contagious, and he passed it to Yachiru. The next time he saw the man, he would kill him.

"You see Zaraki-Taicho, when a girl hits this age, its normal to start to get curious about more womanly things, particularly impressing boys. She'll also want to be around other girls more often," said Unohana, "It's perfectly normal."

"What if I don't want it to be normal! Can't you just give her some pill or something?" barked Kenpachi.

"Not ready to let go, hm?" smiled Unohana, "Teenagers can be a hand full."

Kenpachi perked up at this, "Didn't know you foaled a brat."

"No, I did not give birth," coughed Unohana, unused to such crudeness, "But, there is a young member of my division who has been like a son to me. It's rough at this age."

"Tch, what a weak thing to say," said Kenpachi rolling his eyes.

"Perhaps, but I remember there was a time when I thought he stopped needing me," said Unohana.

"I suppose now you're gonna give me the sob story," complained Kenpachi.

"Only if you want to hear it," said Unohana gently.

"Tch, do whatever you want woman," shrugged the violent captain.

"Well, when he was little, he was quite talented, but very shy. He used to hide behind my hakama while I would run diagnostics, and heaven forbid if he let anyone but me touch him in any way, not even a handshake. He even used to sit on my lap while I filled out papers," reminisced Unohana.

"Heh, the Brat and I do paperwork together," commented Kenpachi.

"But soon, he didn't want to sit on me anymore. He would colour, or read something instead. Before I knew it, he didn't come to keep me company anymore," sighed Unohana.

"Shoulda given him a good slap," grunted Kenpachi.

"It hadn't occurred to me. Soon we no longer called each other by familiar names, he didn't want me to tend his patients with him, he even stopped telling me about his little problems or his friends. It saddened me to think that he no longer needed me, and he was cutting me off."

Kenpachi stopped to think. He and Yachiru still had nicknames for each other, and she still followed him around. They still trained together. He somehow felt sorry for the woman.

"Want me to beat some sense into him?" asked Kenpachi.

"Ah, no. But, just as I thought he no longer needed me, he came to my office one night. He had been hurt by some brute from squad…well, by some person. He cried a little and we talked all night. It occurred to me then that he still needed me, just not the way he did as a child," smiled Unohana.

Suddenly the door cracked open and a nervous blue eye peeked into the room.

"Yes Yamada-kun?" asked Unohana sweetly.

Kenpachi watched as one of his new rivals entered the room. He was a sleepy looking, skinny thing that he could easily snap like a twig. His uniform was far too big for his tiny frame, and a clipboard was clutched nervously in his delicate hand. His black hair was a mass of long black tresses that fell to the middle of his back. The boy was also short, and looked overdue for a growth spurt.

"If you're busy I'll come back later Taicho," squeaked the boy, "It's not important."

Kenpachi could not believe it. What did Yachiru see in that weak little shrimp?

"Your hair tie fell out again?" asked Unohana, "I can fix it now."

The woman went over to the boy and turned him around so she could drag her fingers through his hair. He mouthed something that looked like 'in front of a patient?' but Unohana seemed to ignore it and began to braid his hair. Kenpachi watched with amusement. If only Yachiru could see the kid she liked now. Hopefully this Rin and this Rikichi weren't such saps. He might have to question the girl's mental health if they were.

"All done," announced Unohana, "By the way, there's a guest in the waiting room who could use some company. Would you mind Yamada-kun?"

"Of course Oka- I mean, Unohana-Taicho!" stuttered the boy before excusing himself.

"He's certainly a sweet boy, isn't he?" asked Unohana.

Kenpachi blinked, "You mean that kid is yours?"

"Indeed," said Unohana, "And, I still can't find a proper diagnosis for you."

"You raised that seedy looking little twerp," smirked Kenpachi, "It figures he'd be weak growing up here."

"If you are only going to criticize my staff, you may leave," said Unohana firmly.

"Heh, he kinda looks like you with those doe eyes and all that hair," laughed the violent one.

"I like to think he grew up well. He's never abused any of the medicines, I've only ever punished him once, and he always gives his best," smiled Unohana.

"Yeah, my brat's grown up tough, and she ain't all stupid like the rest of those retards in the division," smiled Kenpachi.

"So long as you stay in her life and love her, she should be fine," smiled the doctor, "Now, should we run some more tests?"

"Nah, this place reeks of weakness. I'm gonna go before I hurl," announced Kenpachi, hauling himself to his feet.

"And here I thought it was the rubbing alcohol," smiled Unohana.

Kenpachi looked at the woman quizzically. Had she just used sarcasm? No, that was impossible, weak little medics did not use sarcasm. The odd pair made their way past hospital rooms and equipment. Kenpachi hated hospitals, they stank of fear. And there was always some weak little sap crying in the background…of course it was a strangely familiar crying. Crying he hadn't heard in decades.

The violent Captain was about to round the corner into the waiting room to investigate, when the calmer one took him by the sleeve and signaled for him to be quiet.

"No its all my fault! I told Ken-chan I wanted to go on a date and he had a heart attack!"

"It's alright lieutenant. I just saw him moments ago and there were no signs of cardiac arrest."

"Then why don't you know what's wrong with him idiot! He's gonna be stuck here forever doing tests and we'll never…"

The first harsh female voice broke off and sobbed uncontrollably. The second gentle, male voice soothed her gently.

"Unohana-Taicho's the best. Zaraki-Taicho will be out here before you know it," he assured her gently.

"In a body bag!" wailed the female voice, "Ken-chan was supposed to die fighting, not in a hospital!"

"He will not die!" snapped the male voice firmly, but not unkindly, "I'm going to have to ask you to control yourself lieutenant!"

"O-okay," sniffled the girl, "But if he dies, I'll kill you for getting my hopes up!"

"I'll, uh, keep that in mind…" mumbled the male voice.

"Hana-chan, if Ken-chan gets better…Well, I was hoping someone would ask me to go, but, I'm gonna ask Ken-chan to go out with me," said the girl. She laughed loudly, "I'll just spend another decade being Yachiru, the violent dateless wonder!"

"I'm sorry lieutenant…" sighed the boy.

"What the hell are you talking about!? I worked hard to get that title ya idiot!" snapped the girl.

"Oh, uh, sorry," stuttered the male voice.

"That's okay. Man, Ken-chan says all you squad four people were weird," giggled the girl, "But, it's a nice weird…and uh…to tell you the truth Hana-chan…I was hoping…hoping that you might…never mind! What the hell am I thinking!"

"Um, is there a problem?" asked the boy.

"No! I'm just…suffering from sugar deprivation!" exclaimed the girl.

"Here, I usually carry suckers for younger patients. Do you like red?" asked the boy.

"Hell ya!" cheered the girl. The crinkle of a wrapper being unceremoniously ripped from candy echoed in the room.

"By the way, I was planning on attending the festival with Rin and Rikichi. Maybe we can meet up and hang out, all five of us," suggested the boy.

"Five? Your math's off moron," scolded the girl.

"Well, won't Zaraki-Taicho be with us?" said the boy, "After all, he's way too tough for a hospital. He'll come out to get you any second now."

"Um, Hana-chan…until then…will you…hold my hand!?" asked the girl nervously.

"Ah, alright," replied the boy, equally nervous.

Kenpachi had heard enough. HIS Yachiru? Holding hands with a BOY? Not on his watch! The blood thirsty man whirled around the corner and saw the two hands about to make contact. He flash stepped over screaming a long and drawn out 'no.' He grabbed the young medic by the scruff of his collar and held him up in midair.

"So, you think you can have your fun while I'm hospitalized do ya!?" yelled Kenpachi, "I'm gonna skin you alive!!!"

The medic screamed and flailed around. Yachiru, overcome with joy latched onto her Ken-chan and laughed, tears streaming down her face.

"Zaraki-Taicho! I'm not that kind of squad member! I'd never do anything to her! Please don't skin me alive!" begged Hanatarou.

"Give me one good reason," threatened Kenpachi.

"His mother will be very, very upset if you do," growled Unohana.

The revenge driven Captain looked from the timid boy in his hand to the firm woman standing in the hallway. He sighed and dropped the long haired teen on his behind.

"Tch, you're not even worth the effort," grumbled Kenpachi, "Let's go Brat."

"Right behind you Ken-chan!" cheered Yachiru.

Right where your supposed to be brat, Kenpachi thought to himself, don't run off on me too soon.